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For couples starting out, Investors Group offers these financial tips:

Set the ground rules Decide how you'll handle shared expenses. Will you split them evenly or pay a portion according to your income? This is especially important if one spouse has a higher income. You'll also need to consider whether you'll use a joint bank account or keep individual accounts.

Beware of FTDs If you want to avoid a "financially transmitted disease," full disclosure is a must when it comes to your credit history. If you plan to share a credit card or apply for a loan together, your partner's bad credit history could lead to unpleasant surprises.

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Set financial goals Decide how you'll approach major financial goals such as buying a home, or adjust to starting a family. Consider opening an RESP if you have children.

Do you need a contract? A marriage contract or prenuptial agreement isn't the most romantic notion. But they're especially important to protect certain assets you had prior to your marriage, such as a business or family cottage, or to protect assets for children from a previous relationship.

Plan for the 'what ifs ...' Ask yourself, if something happens to either one of us, how will we take care of each other? If you become disabled and unable to work, insurance can provide a steady income stream for your family. In the event of your death, life insurance provides a lump sum to your beneficiaries, while mortgage insurance can help pay off the house.

... And for the sure things When it comes to taxes, take advantage of all deductions and income-splitting opportunities like spousal RRSPs to reduce your combined tax bill. For the other sure things, make sure you have a will that spells out how you want your assets to be distributed after your death, as well as a power of attorney for someone to make decisions on your behalf.



Roma Luciw is a writer and web editor of the Globeinvestor.com personal finance site. Please send any comments and story ideas to rluciw@globeandmail.ca.

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